Braced to crush unrest, Iran’s rulers heed lessons of Shah’s fall — analysts

Analysis Braced to crush unrest, Iran’s rulers heed lessons of Shah’s fall — analysts
Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Empress Farah at Mehrabad Airport, Tehran, Iran, Jan. 16, 1979. (AP Photo)
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Updated 06 October 2022

Braced to crush unrest, Iran’s rulers heed lessons of Shah’s fall — analysts

Braced to crush unrest, Iran’s rulers heed lessons of Shah’s fall — analysts
  • Kasra Aarabi: ‘The one striking similarity the current protests have with 1979 is the mood on the streets, which is explicitly revolutionary ... They don’t want reform, they want regime change’
  • Alex Vatanka: ‘Today, the Bazaar has nothing to defend, as it no longer controls the economy which is now in the hands of the Guards’

DUBAI: Iran’s clerical rulers will likely contain the country’s eruption of unrest for now, and prospects of the imminent dawn of a new political order are slim if history is any guide, four analysts said.
The protests, which began over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini her arrest by morality police, have spiralled into a revolt against what protesters said was the increasing authoritarianism of its ruling Islamic clerics.
However, the chances of this snowballing into the kind of uprising that rapidly unseated veteran Egyptian and Tunisian rulers in 2011 seem remote any time soon, since Iran’s rulers are determined to maintain their grip on power at any cost.
For decades, the clerical establishment has used its loyal elite force, the Revolutionary Guards, to violently crush ethnic uprisings, student unrest and protests against economic hardship. So far the Guards have been relatively restrained, but they could be mobilized quickly.
If the protests persist, the Islamic Republic will turn to its usual solution: “unrestrained violence against unarmed civilians to quash the protests this time around,” said Kasra Aarabi, the Iran Program Lead at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
Already, the protests have lasted nearly three weeks – turning into one of the biggest demonstrations of opposition to Iran’s Islamic clerical rule in years.
Although the volume of protests cannot be compared to the 1979 Islamic revolution, when millions took to the streets, the solidarity and unanimity of protesters calling for the downfall of the clerical establishment are reminiscent, analysts said.
“The one striking similarity the current protests have with 1979 is the mood on the streets, which is explicitly revolutionary ... They don’t want reform, they want regime change,” said Aarabi.
“Of course, no one can predict when this moment will happen: it could be weeks, months or even years ... But the Iranian people have made up their mind.”
Challenging the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy, protesters have burned pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanted “Death to the Dictator,” unfazed by security forces using tear gas, clubs and, in many cases, live ammunition.

But Iran’s top rulers are determined not to show the kind of weakness they believe sealed the fate of the US-backed Shah.
To human rights campaigners at that time, the Shah’s great error was to alienate the population with torture and bloodshed. But in hindsight some historians say the Shah was too weak, slow and irresolute in repression.
“The regime’s approach is far more reliant on repression than the Shah,” said Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute.
Rights groups said the state crackdown on protests has so far led to the death of at least 150 people, with hundreds injured and thousands arrested.
Officials say many members of the security forces have been killed by “thugs and rioters linked to foreign foes,” echoing Khamenei’s comments on Monday in which he blamed the United States and Israel for fomenting the “riots.”
Shortly before the revolution, Iran’s Shah appeared on national TV, saying: “As Shah of Iran ... I heard the voice of your revolution ... I cannot but approve your revolution.” His opponents saw that as a sign of fragility. “Khamenei had learned the lesson, as he lived through the revolution, that if you tell the people you’ve heard their voices and that you are wrong, this is the end of your leadership. He doesn’t want to do that,” said Vatanka.
Nevertheless, Khamenei’s unyielding rhetoric also carries risk, Vatanka said. “If Khamenei does not listen ... and stop this nonsense that protests are all foreign-led, there will be more protests,” he said. Demonstrations have spread from Amini’s native Kurdistan province to all of Iran’s 31 provinces, with all layers of society, including ethnic and religious minorities, joining in.
“These broad-based protests have attracted almost all segments of the population whose grievances have not been addressed by the regime,” said Vahid Yucesoy, a specialist on political Islam based in Canada.
A popular political Kurdish slogan used in the Kurdish independence movement, “Woman, Life, Freedom” that was first chanted at Amini’s funeral on Sept. 17 in the Kurdish town of Saqez, has been used globally in protests against her death.
Fearing an ethnic uprising, the establishment has adopted a restrained repression instead of the iron fist strategy it displayed in the past, analysts said.

The protests are “secular, non-ideological to some extent anti-Islamic,” said Saeid Golkar, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“Iranians are revolting against the clergy ... who use religion to suppress the people,” he said.
The anti-Shah revolt reverberated around provincial cities, towns, and villages. But what paralyzed his rule was strikes by oil workers, who turned off the taps on most of the country’s revenue, and by bazaar merchants, who funded the rebel clerics.
While university students have played a pivotal role in current protests with dozens of universities on strike, there has been little sign of the Bazaar and oil workers joining in.
“Bazaaris were important during the 1979 revolution as, at the time, they saw the Shah’s economic reforms as against their interests and therefore backed the revolution,” Vatanka said.
“Today, the Bazaar has nothing to defend, as it no longer controls the economy which is now in the hands of the Guards.”
The Guards, loyal to Khamenei, is an industrial empire as well as being a powerful military force. It wields political clout and controls Iran’s oil industry.


Push to nominate Egyptian sheikh for Nobel Peace Prize

Sheikh Ahmed Karima. (Wikipedia)
Sheikh Ahmed Karima. (Wikipedia)
Updated 11 sec ago

Push to nominate Egyptian sheikh for Nobel Peace Prize

Sheikh Ahmed Karima. (Wikipedia)
  • Karima said he is one of the pioneers in supporting the rapprochement between religious sects, and highlighted his efforts in confronting terrorism since 1996, saying he had published books citicial of the Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh

CAIRO: Sheikh Ahmed Karima, a professor of comparative jurisprudence and Islamic law at Al-Azhar University, has confirmed that there are efforts and moves by some personalities outside Egypt to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

A number of those close to him are making efforts to support his nomination .

The professor told Arab News that the moves “come as a result of my efforts to bring together the Sunni, Shiite and Ibadi Islamic sects, as well as the societal initiatives that I have participated in launching over the past years.”

Karima said he is one of the pioneers in supporting the rapprochement between religious sects, and highlighted his efforts in confronting terrorism since 1996, saying he had published books citicial of the Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh.

“I also have a charitable foundation in the Haram area, and I call for stopping behavioral violence and consolidating and supporting world peace. These are activities that I have been working on for a very long time,” Karima added.

He told Arab News that the proposal that he adopted would also be based on the establishment of the Egyptian Center for World Peace, a specialized non-profit research center concerned with correcting misconceptions attributed to religious issues for the public benefit.

The center challenges false inferences, false citations, and remedies for the principles and agendas of intellectual and behavioral violence, Karima told Arab News.

He suggested that the center be affiliated with the presidency of Egypt, the presidency of the Egyptian Cabinet, and the Foundation for Harmony among people.

Karima said he was working “to spread the culture of environmental protection, in international conferences and scientific publications, including legal measures to protect the environment, in addition to sermons and seminars in mosques and cultural palaces and youth centers.”

He concluded his remarks by saying: “I wish I would win the Nobel Peace Prize, and if I win it, I will dedicate it to Al-Azhar Al-Sharif.

“I was also surprised by negative propaganda campaigns by European institutions and personalities against my candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

 


Delay in enacting law against underage marriage sparks concern in Egypt

Delay in enacting law against underage marriage sparks concern in Egypt
Updated 8 min 25 sec ago

Delay in enacting law against underage marriage sparks concern in Egypt

Delay in enacting law against underage marriage sparks concern in Egypt
  • Parliament’s legislative and constitutional affairs committee decided to postpone the final approval of the draft law until it received a response from Al-Azhar Al-Sharif

CAIRO: A delay to a new draft law, currently pending before the Parliament of Egypt, that criminalizes marriage under the age of 18 and increases the punishment for violators, has sparked controversy in the North African country.

The hold up is due to Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, the Islamic scientific body, which has yet to determine the extent of the proposal’s agreement with Shariah law.

Mohamed Sultan, a member of the parliament’s human rights committee, told Arab News: “The House of Representatives submitted a new draft law that increases the punishment for violators of the crime of underage marriage, whether it be parents, authorized persons or lawyers. The Cabinet approved the draft law in April.

“We aim to eliminate this negative phenomenon — as underage marriage is a crime against children — in addition to its negative impact on society. At this age, they are not capable (of taking) responsibility for forming a family and raising children, and this is a flagrant assault on the childhood stage.

“The draft law stipulates that it is not permissible to marry a person who has not reached the age of 18. Whoever marries or participates in the marriage of a male or female under the age of 18 will face a fine of between 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($814) to 50,000 pounds, and a prison sentence no shorter than six months.”

He added: “Anyone who incites the marriage of minors is also punished with the same penalty, and the child is not considered criminal or responsible for this crime.”

Parliament’s legislative and constitutional affairs committee decided to postpone the final approval of the draft law until it received a response from Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, which is the largest religious institution in Egypt.

Ahmed Al-Sawy, editor-in-chief of Sawt Al-Azhar newspaper, told Arab News: “Al-Azhar and its Grand Imam Sheikh Al-Tayyib resolved the issue of child marriage years ago by defining a legal age for marriage, and the scholars supported all efforts to criminalize child marriage.”

Al-Sawy cited statements by Al-Tayyib in which he said: “When talking about this issue, we must differentiate between minors in two senses — the first is the girl has not yet reached the age of puberty, and the second is the girl has just reached puberty but is yet to be psychologically and mentally ready for marriage.”

He added: “I do not think that marriage with minors who are yet to reach puberty was something that existed, occurred, or was a phenomenon that attracted attention. Rather, what used to happen was the girl’s marriage right after reaching puberty.”

Al-Tayyib previously stated: “The issue of determining the age of marriage for girls is subject to the circumstances of the era and changes … and the fact that the law now sets the age of marriage at 18 years is welcome, and there is no objection to this.”

Islam Amer, an Islamic scholar and marriage expert, told Arab News: “I demanded more than once to criminalize the customary marriage for those under 18, and I am now calling on parliament to issue a law that criminalizes marriage under the legal age because early marriage is a violation of children’s rights.”
 


12 Houthis killed in fierce fighting south of Marib

12 Houthis killed in fierce fighting south of Marib
Updated 11 min 36 sec ago

12 Houthis killed in fierce fighting south of Marib

12 Houthis killed in fierce fighting south of Marib
  • Militia kills 2 worshipers with explosive drone in Hodeidah mosque

AL-MUKALLA: At least a dozen Houthis have been killed in fierce fighting with Yemeni government troops during the past two days outside Marib, as the militia began a fresh round of deadly strikes to take control of the crucial city, local media reports and military officials said on Saturday.

Lt. Col. Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official in the Yemen Armed Forces Guidance Department, told Arab News that the Houthis staged attacks on government soldiers with heavy machine guns, tanks and artillery along high terrain overlooking Marib in order to prepare the way for ground forces to push into new territories in Al-Akad, Al-Ramelah and other sites south of the city.

The Houthi attacks sparked heavy fighting with government troops on Thursday and Friday, resulting in the deaths of at least a dozen Houthi fighters and the wounding of dozens more.

“They shelled our forces heavily before launching waves of fighters against us,” Al-Mekhlafi said.

National army and resistance fighters were able to drive the militia back, Al-Mekhlafi said, adding that many Houthi military pickup trucks were spotted transporting casualties to a hospital in Marib’s Juba as well as other hospitals in Sanaa and Thamar.

Yemeni military officials believe that the recent Houthi assaults on Marib aimed to increase the pressure on the Yemeni government to give in to the militia’s demands, such as salary payments.

Since Oct. 2, when an UN-brokered ceasefire collapsed, the Houthis have ramped up drone, missile and ground operations against government troops at several important locations around the country, including outside Marib.

Despite significantly reducing hostilities, the ceasefire that went into effect on April 2 failed to end the Houthi siege of Taiz or the cessation of the militia’s deadly attacks on civilian sections of the city.

Despite heavy Houthi casualties in Marib last week, Yemeni authorities believe that the recent attacks were weaker than those carried out during the Houthi military onslaught on the city that began early last year and was paused after the truce.

Thousands of combatants and civilians were killed during the Houthi offensive, while thousands more were forced to flee to safer locations.

On Dec. 1, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet intercepted a fishing trawler smuggling “more than 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets” in the Gulf of Oman along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen.

A statement said: “Navy personnel operating from expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) discovered the illicit cargo during a flag verification boarding, marking US Fifth Fleet’s second major illegal weapons seizure within a month.”

Meanwhile, in the western province of Hodeidah, an explosive-laden drone launched by the Houthis into a mosque during Friday prayers in Al-Roun village in Hays district killed two worshipers and injured three more, local media and rights groups said.

A heartbreaking photograph of a weeping mother hugging her deceased son, who was slain in the mosque, has led to outrage and condemnation of Houthi strikes.

“The Houthi gang continues to inflict suffering on every Yemeni household and family,” Basem Banani, a Hodeidah-born Yemeni journalist said on Twitter, commenting on the photograph.

Human rights group Rights Radar criticized the Houthi assault on the mosque and urged the UN envoy to Yemen to assist in protecting people from Houthi strikes.

“Rights Radar called on the UN Yemen envoy, Hans Grundberg, and the UN mission in Hodeidah to assume moral responsibility for those who have been exposed to artillery or aerial bombardment with drones and landmines as a result of Houthi attacks,” the organization said.

 


Late artists’ memorabilia up for grabs in downtown Cairo

Muhammad Sameer Galaal Sabry. (Social media)
Muhammad Sameer Galaal Sabry. (Social media)
Updated 21 min 49 sec ago

Late artists’ memorabilia up for grabs in downtown Cairo

Muhammad Sameer Galaal Sabry. (Social media)
  • Al-Samry said: “It is sad to find among these items honorary shields for the late artist that bear his name

CAIRO: Memorabilia relating to the career of actor Samir Sabry has turned up for sale in small libraries in downtown Cairo.

Albums and plaques are among the items to have been found on sale following the actor’s death in May, at the age of 85.

Wael Al-Samry, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian newspaper Youm7, found a photograph album made during the filming of “The Warm Embrace,” a movie that was produced in 1974 and starred Sabry.

An album of press cuttings belonging to Sabry was also discovered, containing many rare pictures chronicling the stages of his life and his most important films.

It also included photographs taken with Abdel Halim Hafez, and director Antony Thomas.

The items found for sale also included posters from the actor’s most important films.

Al-Samry said: “It is sad to find among these items honorary shields for the late artist that bear his name.

“These shields reflect an important aspect of the late artist’s interests, activities, and his relationship with his community and his art.”

Al-Samry found the items shortly after journalist Essam Zakaria located memorabilia on Cairo’s sidewalks that had previously belonged to the late actor Nour El-Sherif.

Zakaria said: “The belongings of the late actor Nour El-Sherif are being sold inside and outside Egypt after they were put on the market about a year ago.

“They include dozens of his albums and books that are carefully bound and bear his name, and some bear his signature and handwritten notes.

“The belongings also include the awards that El-Sherif received, various donations from cultural institutions, a large number of movie posters, as well as family albums, awards, medals that he obtained, and papers, some of which are private.”

 


Palestinian bloodshed will rise under new Israeli govt, experts fear

Palestinian bloodshed will rise under new Israeli govt, experts fear
Updated 35 min 26 sec ago

Palestinian bloodshed will rise under new Israeli govt, experts fear

Palestinian bloodshed will rise under new Israeli govt, experts fear
  • A Fatah leader who witnessed the first and second intifadas told Arab News that the Israeli army’s decision to “kill Palestinians rather than arrest them” is behind the rising death rate

RAMALLAH: An unprecedented number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year has sparked growing concern among Palestine watchers who warn that unjustifiable Israeli action will invariably lead to more violence and destabilization in the region.

In the West Bank alone, 156 Palestinians have been killed in the past 11 months, with most of the victims not involved in armed clashes or even stone-throwing incidents, Palestinian sources told Arab News.

Israeli armed forces, Palestinian sources and experts claim, have changed the rules, making it easier to open fire when they feel threatened, and to shoot to kill, even when they are able to injure the attacker from a distance.

Palestinians are deeply worried that Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s recently appointed security minister, is in charge of the border police in the West Bank, and see a link between his new role and the sharp rise in killings.

Although the US, EU, UN and Arab League have expressed outrage over Israel’s lethal use of force, most Palestinians believe sharp international criticism is unlikely to stop or even limit Israel’s anti-Palestinian violence.

Shadi Othman, a spokesman for the EU in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the Palestinian territories have recorded killings not seen since 2006, and said that the European bloc’s concern stems from the lack of accountability over the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces.

“We are concerned by the absence of any indication or evidence of a serious investigation and accountability of those who use excessive force, which contributes to increasing tension and a sense of insecurity among Palestinian citizens, which negatively affects the stability of the security situation in the Palestinian territories,” Othman said.

A Fatah leader who witnessed the first and second intifadas told Arab News that the Israeli army’s decision to “kill Palestinians rather than arrest them” is behind the rising death rate.

“Most of those killed could have been arrested,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“What worries me is that the killing of Palestinians is carried out for the most trivial reasons and without justification in most cases, to the extent that you feel that the Israeli soldiers are out on a hunting trip to kill Palestinians,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Adnan Al-Damiri (retired), a former spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said that the Israeli ideological belief that killing non-Jews is not considered murder has contributed to the rise in the number of deaths.

He accused the Israeli media of creating panic and fear among Israelis that Palestinians want to kill them.

“And for this reason, they are rushing to pull the trigger and shoot, taking advantage of the absence of trial and accountability for soldiers and settlers who kill Palestinians,” he said.

Al-Damiri said that the 3 million people living in the West Bank are afraid that any of them could be the next victim, either at the hands of the army, police or Israeli settlers.

Human rights activist Amer Hamdan from Nablus told Arab News that traveling on the Nablus-Ramallah road is fraught with danger for Palestinians because of a heavy deployment of settlers and Israeli soldiers.

“When I travel from Nablus to Ramallah, I drive my vehicle with caution, focus and attention so that a settler or soldier does not misunderstand my driving for targeting him and shoots me at a crossroads or a pedestrian path or a junction,” he said.

Hamdan criticized the Palestinian Authority’s reactions to the killings of Palestinians, which were limited to expressing pain, condemnation and denunciation.

“The task of the Palestinian leadership is not to assume the role of a journalist or social activist, to analyze or condemn and denounce, but instead it must take measures to protect citizens, and if it is unable to do so, it must not prevent citizens from protecting themselves by the means they see fit,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority and its 35,000 personnel deployed in the West Bank are facing growing criticism over their apparent inability to protect Palestinians.

Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben Menachem told Arab News that there has been no change in orders to Israeli soldiers to open fire on Palestinians, and expects that the new Israeli government, to be headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, will pursue a more stringent security policy toward Palestinians than the current leadership under Yair Lapid.

He said the military doctrine adopted by the Israeli army forces is based on the fact that “anyone who thinks of killing or tries to kill Jews must realize that he will be killed.”

Eyal Alima, an Israeli military expert, told Arab News that the high death toll among Palestinians is due to two reasons — the intensification of Israeli military activities in the West Bank to arrest wanted persons, and the accompanying armed clashes and stone-throwing incidents, as well as the army’s determination to stop Palestinians breaching the separation wall between the West Bank and Israel, and to shoot and kill intruders.

Alima said that 60 percent of the Israeli army forces currently operate in the West Bank, where 26 combat and 86 reserve battalions are deployed.

“The size of the Israeli army forces deployed in the West Bank leads to great friction with the Palestinian citizens, and thus increases the number of wounded and dead among them,” Alima said.

Israeli military and security leaders expect a further deterioration in the security situation in the West Bank in coming weeks, and an increase in the number of attacks on Israeli army forces and settlers, which means a continued rise in the killing of Palestinians.